RTI application seeking the basis for the file notings
The appellant filed four applications under the Right to Information (RTI) Act with the Ministry of Environment & Forest in which the appellant raised a number of queries questioning the authenticity and the basis of many of the noting made in various files relating to some cases. He also wanted the copies of several records. The Public Information Officer (PIO) provided the copies of some of the records and observed that the copies of the file noting and other such records had already been provided to the wife of the appellant who had sought similar information on his behalf.
During the hearing before the Central Information Commission (CIC), the appellant submitted that he wanted the PIO to certify the information provided. The respondent reported that the CBI had instituted a case against the appellant after he was caught red handed receiving a bribe. He had been seeking information by filing applications under the RTI Act himself and also through his wife. The PIO further informed that the copies of all available file notings and other records had already been provided both to his wife and to him and most of his queries arose out of the information already provided to him.
View of CIC
The Commission observed that if the basis for any noting made in a file does not exist in the file, the PIO could not be expected to speculate on his own and provide the grounds on which any such noting is recorded. The CIC further noted that if any authority in the government has taken a decision which is not based on sound reasoning, this can be challenged in an appropriate forum. The responsibility of the PIO is only to truthfully report the information as it exists, not to justify or critique the decision taken or comment made by any authority. The Commission held that under the RTI Act, the appellant can have direct access to the original records concerning his queries. The CIC directed the PIO to show the appellant all the available original files and records relating to his queries for inspection. After inspection, the appellant can ask for the photocopies of some of the records the PIO should provide duly attested with signature and seal.
Earlier, there was a confusion whether file notings are included under the purview of the RTI Act, but various pronouncements of the Act have cleared the doubt. A PIO is bound to provide the copies of the file notings unless they are otherwise excluded under the exemption provisions.
Citation: Mr. Bishnu Kant Thakur v. Ministry of Environment & Forest in File No. CIC/SM/A/2012/000895, 901, 914 & 915
RTI Citation : RTIFI/2013/CIC/993
Click here to view original RTI order of Court / Information Commission